Jim Carrey annoyed me.
It wasn't the way he usually annoys me, which is with his movies. God bless him for having a niche and running with it (and I actually think he is an excellent dramatic actor) but Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura just aren't my thing. My husband loves Jim Carrey. Go figure.
This week, Jim Carrey let loose with a Twitter rant, blasting the recently-signed-into-law referendums in California that place strict vaccination requirements on any children entering pubic day care or school. Spurned by the recent outbreak of measles that was eventually traced to the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, the law. The new regulations leave very few families eligible to opt out- only children with a documented medical case for skipping vaccinations with be exempt. Families can no longer site religion or personal preference as a reason to pass on vaccinations if they want their children to attend public school is day care facilities in California.
Carey, a long-time proponent for change in the manufacture and administering of vaccinations (apropos of nothing, he was in a relationship with, perhaps, the most well-known figure in the anti-vax movement, Jenny McCarthy, for many years), blasted the bill in a rant complete with pictures to illustrate his point. You can click here to visit Carrey's Twitter page and read his thoughts.
The problem was the rant (more on that in a second), but it was also the picture he painted. Each tweet was punctuated with a picture of a child with Autism (or what was proprted to be a child with Autism) in varied levels of distress- crying, tantruming, etc. One of the tweets featured a boy named Alex Echols. Alex was diagnosed as an infant with a disorder called tuberous sclerosis, a rare, genetic disorder that causes the growth of non-malignant tumors anywhere in the body. According to the NIH, one-third of children with TS meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Autism. His picture was used as a prop to further illustrate Carrey's rant about vaccines, their perceived destructiveness, and connection to Autism, and it was used without permission. This prompted Alex's mother to sign up for Twitter solely to reach out to Jim Carrey and ask him to remove the photo. He complied, and offered a brief apology via Twitter.
I get that this is kind of a big buildup just to explain why Jim Carrey annoyed me, but stay with me here.
What annoys me is that he used those pictures to perpetuate the idea that Autism is some kind of tragedy- that to expose your children to a potentially deadly disease is still somehow better than
having a child with Autism. He plucked these pictures up and used them as an example; expose your child to vaccines and reduce them to this, this life of meltdowns and hardship and struggle.
Well, no offense, Mr. Carey, but you can suck it.
barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world. But don't hold up Autism as some kind of threat, some kind of punishment for our choices. Parenting a child with Autism is not easy. It is hard, emotional, expensive work, and it is not what I wanted for my son. But whereas measles would be something that would happen to PJ, Autism is a part of who he is. I would not trade away Autism because, to do that, I would have to trade away my son. My life as his mother is what I wanted, and his life is no tragedy. To suggest that avoiding a (perceived) risk of Autism is worth risking death is embarrassing and hurtful and, overall, and makes your campaign look less "concerned citizen" and more "zealous loony." And if your arguments could stand on their own, Mr. Carrey, you wouldn't need to paint my life any other way than what it is.
Our life is not perfect, and that is not entirely due to Autism. Nobody has a perfect life. But my son is healthy and here with me. My life, PJ's life, and the lives of all of the families who face Autism are not fodder for threats or fear.